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Things in Past and Present in the Spirit of Man
GA 167

VIII. Thomas More and His Utopia

2 May 1916, Berlin

From the year 1509 to 1547 Henry VIII was on the throne of England. He had six wives, two of which he executed because they no longer appealed to him; the others he divorced. He would have executed his last wife, but she was cunning enough to talk him out of it. He had difficulty in getting a divorce from his first wife, because the marriage had been performed according to all churchly rules and it was necessary to obtain the agreement of Pope Clement VII in order to divorce her. But the Pope would not grant him one because he could not find any reason for a divorce. As a result, Henry VIII founded a new church and it still continues as the Anglican Church of England which today has twenty million members.

Now, Henry VIII Was not a very intelligent person as is indicated by his conversation with his last wife. All he actually wanted to do was to found a new church, but he did not really want to produce new teachings for it, therefore he continued the old ways in the Church. What he really wanted was that the enlightened members of Parliament should agree to recognize him as head of the English Church instead of the Pope.

Now, Thomas More, 1478–1535, did not agree that such a “holy person” as Henry VIII should be the head of the Church; and as a result, Thomas More was executed. He called his book “Utopia”, and since that time the name Utopia is given to books which deal with the idea of an ideal state—remember the “Utopia” of Belemies (sic). Thomas More indicated in his book “Utopia” that there should be complete freedom of religion, a tolerance of different religions, because the state agreed that religion is a question of one's private conscience. Yet in spite of this fact, we know that the Catholic Church is trying to make Thomas More a saint because of his defense of the Catholic Church against Henry VIII.

Before a person can be raised to sainthood, there is an exhaustive procedure in the Catholic Church. First you have the Advocate who must bring forward everything which would support this sainthood and it is necessary that one should have performed a miracle in order to become a saint. This procedure is quite long. There is the Advocate who brings forward evidence against the candidate for sainthood. Now, just imagine that the miracle which Thomas More was quoted as having performed was the miracle of suggesting religious tolerance in the Catholic Church! This is the sort of thing that the opposing advocate would put forward against him becoming a saint.

Thomas More was really fortune's favourite. He advanced from various state offices, became a member of Parliment, and finally High Chancellor for Henry VIII who had him executed because he would not agree to the Succession Act. This was a sin against the new institution of the English Church. Then the enlightened Lord Justices had to decide what sort of judgement should be meted out to Thomas More. The following is the decision which these enlightened justices reached as the price Thomas More had to pay for his so-called treason of not going along with Henry VIII. He was to be condemned and brought to the Tower by Sheriff William Pinkston and then put in a braided basket and dragged through the City of London to Tiburn. In Tiburn he was to be hanged only until he was half dead, then he was to be taken down form the scaffold and certain of his limbs would be cut off; his body torn open and the entrails burned. Then his body with the exception of the head would be divided into four portions and each would be placed on a pike and set at the four ends of the City of London. His head, however would be put on a high spear and placed on London Bridge in order to serve as a warning for people to go along with the King. This was the sort of judgement that these enlightened lords issued. This was not carried out, however, he was beheaded and the head was placed upon a spear on London Bridge.

We have Thomas More here before us in history and all this occurred in the first half of the 16th century. That is not so long ago. But we should remember that Thomas More who in his Utopia talked about religious tolerance could not be considered the sort of rationalist or free thinker who preached religious tolerance in the 18th century. No, in order to understand his concept of religious tolerance and where it came from, we must examine his book “Utopia” carefully.

This book contains the configuration of a state that was developed on a far away island called Utopia. Utopia was supposed to be ruled by the dry intellect, it was a very rationalistic state. All the houses would be in squares on streets that were all parallel. Every house was strongly regulated by the police stating how many young men and young women could live in a certain house. If there were too many people in one house, then some had to be shifted 'to another house. It was a very exact division of human beings in different houses. Private possessions were not allowed; it had a certain communistic economy. There was a set order at meals, older people setting here, younger people there; who had to serve, and so on. Everything about the people who dwelt in Utopia was a result of the very intellectual, rationalistic organization of the state; they were educated so that they became completely freed of any of the lower passions, desires and instincts. Here is an example: One was not to eat simply for the taste of the food or for any satisfaction. However, when they ate, they ought to feel thankful that there was a pleasant feeling united with the eating of the food. During their meals a lecturer sermon would be given by one of the enlightened spirits in Utopia. Things were so arranged that everything was governed by these enlightened people who were at the same time priests. Everyone was permitted complete religious freedom; however there was a presupposition that no man could be in Utopia who denied the existence of God or denied the immortality of the soul or denied the fact that after he died he would enter into some sort of judgement. This would be the common ground for all religions, but apart from that there would be religious tolerance. The whole thing was arranged in a very realistic, sober, intellectual way; this was Thomas More's Utopia.

Let us speak about Thomas More himself. We must not forget that Thomas More had been very religious even as a young child and he also carried out spiritual exercises incessantly; he was a man who took his meditations in the deepest earnestness. He spent many hours every day in meditation. On the last day before his execution, he sent those secret practices which constituted his spiritual exercises from the Tower to his daughter so that the people who led him away would not find them in his cell. You can see that he continued his spiritual exercises right up to the point of his execution. He was very earnest about the development of his soul. Remember that we spoke about a time before the expansion of Protestantism and we find that Thomas More wanted nothing more than to be a true son of his Church, the Roman Catholic Church, in the sense of his age. And because of his loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church, he allowed himself to be executed.

Let us now continue to focus upon Utopia, this distant island which was supposed to have no geographical connection with Europe. Once upon a time, wise old people landed an this island, Romans and Egyptians who were then responsible for the establishment of Utopia. These people developed a certain alphabet which consisted of right angles and other geometrical shapes; this was the alphabet of Utopia. Take the person who today can see a resemblance between the sort of alphabet in certain Freemasonry books and Thomas More's description of the writing of Utopia. Besides that there were certain maxims which were guiding principles for all actions an Utopia, and you could put Latin, Greek and Hebrew texts together in a very remarkable way and again be reminded of certain formulations which are present in the occult brotherhoods today even though these things are very mach hidden. It is also expressly stated in this book “Utopia” that Roman and Egyptian wise men landed upon that island, but nothing is said about Christianity.

Now this makes for a very curious situation. Remember that Thomas More is a religious Catholic, one who does spiritual exercises. He writes a book entitled “Utopia”, describes an island in all its details and organizations, but nothing is said about Christianity. How can we understand these things? We mentioned that Thomas More was a person who did many spiritual exercises. Also remember that this is a time of transition between the 4th period and the 5th period and how I described the situation in the period when I mentioned people like Pico della Mirandola, Savanarola and others. We also mentioned that around this time there was a disappearance of the ancient occult capacities; how for the ordinary person that actually disappeared. However, these occult capacities were accessible through spiritual exercises, the very exercises which Thomas More did.

When such spiritual exercises are correctly done today, the person is able for example to see the connection between the ordinary everyday thinking and that which draws up out of the depths of the soul as a perception of a higher spiritual world. However something else can also make its appearance, and in the case of Thomas More this happened. Through his spiritual exercises he was transplanted during his sleep state into the astral world in such a way that he was able to have quite different experiences from the ordinary person. Although he had these experiences in the astral world, he was not able to bring them directly into his consciousness. He could experience certain things in an exhaustive way in the spiritual world, but he could not bring them over consciously, but he brought them over in such a way that he was able to write these experiences down in his book of“Utopia”.

Now we can very quickly realize that when you study this book “Utopia”, which most of the intellectuals of today might consider as pure fantasy but for one who knows about these things can be understood as a result of a spiritual experience which exists between the ordinary thinking and the spiritual experience, a connection does not come to consciousness and these experiences which do not come to consciousness are all the more compelling. One can be a martyr for Catholicism as was Thomas More, a very religious Catholic such a religious Catholic that subsequently they speak of making him a saint. However, when you have such spiritual experiences as he had on the astral plane, then you write them down. You have experienced them and this experience works with elementary force. When one actually enters the astral world, the first thing one experiences there is that the three dimensional space rules which we experience here on the earth no longer apply. Those laws which we learn in geometry only have validity for the external sense world. One can speak symbolically but one realizes that in reality this symbolic expression signifies something different. It is impossible to speak in the same way of that which one experiences on the astral plane as we speak here of things and beings of the sense world. As you know, when we speak of things of the sense world, we can say: This woman sits here, that woman sits there. However, this has no meaning when you consider the astral world. In the astral world one soon realizes that you are in a world of non-place, something which denies that which is of a spatial aspect in the sense physical world. Therefore a correct translation of Utopia would be non-place. So the word Utopia refers to the quality of the world. It is a world which has no spatial elements. Now we ask the question: When he entered this world, what is it which especially confronted him?

Now you can very easily realize that these occult brotherhoods also draw their particular practices from the astral world, so you will not be surprised when you see a resemblance between what Thomas More inserted in his “Utopia” and the customs of the occult brotherhoods. These customs which are projected from an occult wisdom, from an ancient observation of this astral world, but this ancient observation of the astral world had disappeared and lives further in the different brotherhoods as tradition. People who themselves had no opportunity could not look into the spiritual world; however, through the fact that such people as Thomas More did certain spiritual exercises; they were transplanted into the spiritual world and were confronted by similar-things which were present in the brotherhoods. Naturally it is no wonder that that which lives in many occult brotherhoods are teachings which are not affected by Christianity. We also find in the case of Thomas More that everything which permeates the organization of the state on the island of Utopia goes back to ancient Egypt and ancient Rome, but does not involve Christianity. These occult brotherhoods place great emphasis on the fact that they go back to Egyptian and still earlier orders.

Now put what I have just said together with what we have learned about that which is essentially the basis of the Christian world view. I have often mentioned that Christianity rests upon the fact that that spiritual power which we designate with the name of Christ descended and spiritualized the body of Jesus in the 30th year of his life which gradually was able to acquire this ability because it developed and passed through the souls of the two Jesus boys. Now, what actually happened? A spiritual power which up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha had not been involved in earth evolution had interwoven itself into earth evolution from the Mystery of Golgotha onwards. In so far as this spiritual force lived in the body of Jesus of Nazareth and then went through the Mystery of Golgotha, it was able to pass deeper and deeper into earth development and continuously united itself more solidly with the further development of the Earth We have often expressed this. Thus this power descended on the physical earth plane from spiritual heights in which it had dwelt earlier.

Thus when an ancient clairvoyant lifted himself into the spiritual worlds in the time before the Mystery of Golgotha, naturally he met the Christ Being in the spiritual heights. Hence those people who were prophets and so on, were able to speak about the future coming of Christ. They could prophesy it, because they found Christ in the spiritual worlds and saw Him on His path towards the earth. They regarded HIm as the Sun Spirit who gradually descended in order to become an Earth Spirit. These prophets were able to see into the future development of the earth evolution in so far as they perceived in the spiritual heights that which ultimately was to unite itself with the earth development. Therefore you would not find the Christ in the earth before the Mystery of Golgotha. Obviously those people who lived before the Mystery of Golgotha could not have the Christ in their earth science, because Christ was not present on the earth at that time. However, when the initiates of these Mysteries had achieved a certain degree, they were able to announce the coming of the Christ upon the earth.

You must bear in mind how everything is entirely different since the Mystery of Golgotha; an entirely reversed position holds true since then. When you investigate the earth development, you find the Christ interwoven in the whole history of those people who are permeated by Christianity; and to present a historical thesis without speaking about Christ is actually not right. The historical Ranke perceived this and when he was quite old he presented the question: Can one know anything about history if you do not show how the Christ Impulse lives and penetrates into every single phenomena? However, when one rises up into those worlds from which Christ has descended in order to unite himself with the earth, then the Christ is not directly there. One must descend from those heights upon the earth to see how he has united Himself with the earth.

This is a real fact, and it is the basis for the terrible anxiety which certain religious confessions have in reference to occultism. Naturally they do not understand the real occultism; they do not understand how Christ can be found through the real spiritual science. All that these religious orders know is that shallow occultism which says the following: Christ is now to be found upon the earth and when you lift yourself up into the higher worlds, the Christ is no longer there. Thus we have anxious priests working against the spreading of this occultism. It is for this reason that here in our movement we have often indicated that when one is able to cross over the borders and enter into the spiritual worlds, we are not permitted to forget that which can be occultly experienced about the Christ within the earth. This is what real spiritual science teaches; whereas these shallow brotherhoods either tell people that the Christ is only present for earthly perception or they talk about the Christ incarnating Himself in Krishna Murti, whom they called Alcione.

Let us now transplant ourselves into Thomas More's situation. He had done exercises which enabled him to come into complete clarity in reference to the Christ. Now, the Jesuits try to guard against all sorts of distortions and errors in reference to the Christ which occur in the world and through their Jesuit exercises they guard against these distortions. Thomas More did not do such Jesuit exercises; the spiritual exercises he did do did not enable him to enter with full consciousness into the spiritual world. If he had been able to enter into the spiritual world with full consciousness, naturally he would have perceived how Christ descended onto the earth; but he could not maintain a complete consciousness. The consequence was that he actually wrote down that which he experienced in half consciousness in the spiritual world; hence you find that Christianity did not exist on his island of Utopia.

Now we can understand that if he had really written his book “Utopia” from the standpoint of ordinary consciousness, he would never have inserted the idea of religious tolerance. But he wrote something down which did not enter completely into his consciousness. Religious tolerance was emphasized in that which he perceived in Utopia; the emphasis was not placed on a single form of worship. In a higher sense the following could have been said by Thomas More: Alas, two souls live in my breast; one soul here in the physical world, the other soul which lives in a quite different world between going to sleep and waking up, a world into which the Christ Impulse cannot be carried. If we speak of this fundamental feeling which can permeate a person such as Thomas More, then we find that he did not have a full occult experience of the spiritual world even though he struggled to get into it. When you get the sort of entry into the spiritual world which Thomas More had, there are certain anxieties there, but they are not perceived by the soul as such, but that which actually is a feeling of anxiety is more or less suppressed in the unconscious. And then one looks for other reasons to explain what one experiences and does. A masked anxiety transforms itself into something quite different for the consciousness. Now in the case of Thomas More, he transformed this suppressed anxiety into something different through the working of his occult experiences. The working of these occult experiences caused Thomas More to receive anxiety in his soul, but what would this anxiety be if it had drawn up in a conscious way in his soul? What would Thomas More then have said to himself?

Let us hypothesize something which can never be possible, namely, that the following entered into Thomas More's complete consciousness. You see that which he wrote down later in “Utopia” he saw in the astral world and he wanted to describe it. Why? If he had grasped the anxiety completely and had written out of this anxiety, then he might have had the following thought: One must do everything in the present world period in order to penetrate into the Christ Impulse and to maintain it with all the phases of one's soul in a correct sense for human development. However, if men are able in some way to return to the ancient clairvoyance, then they would see why his “Utopia” contains no Christ Impulse. If he had really perceived the anxiety, he would have said: “Protect yourself from wanting to depart from the Christ Impulse.” However, he had not really experienced this anxiety, it remained in his unconscious and the consequence was that he wrote down that which came from his inner being. This presents a riddle to us when we see the apparent contradiction of the whole nature of Thomas More.

After we have set all this before our soul, let us transplant ourselves into the position of those people who belonged to certain occult brotherhoods. Here we have Thomas More; he wrote his “Utopia” that is not such a terrible thing. The writing of his “Utopia” would not have justified that awful punishment which these Lords had placed upon him. Even without this, he was a suspicious person because he was acting against the intentions of Henry VIII. However, let us just assume that there were people who formed the majority of those judges who at the same time belonged to occult brotherhoods. They then studied what was written in “Utopia” and realized that here is something which they wanted to preserve as mysteries and it was betrayed. All sorts of indications are given in this book; not only was it a betrayal, but it showed how this then continues to work into external human culture. Therefore, when they considered Thomas More, they see that an oath had been betrayed and this betrayal carries a certain sentence with it. If one investigates the sentence for the betrayal of occult mysteries, one finds it identical with the sentence which we indicated previously—those awful things which were not carried out.

So you see, my dear friends, in order to understand history, it is not enough to focus upon the so-called fable convenue which is really what present day history is; but in order to learn history properly you must be able to penetrate deeply into the development of mankind and be able to see into what actually is occurring in the souls of human beings. Thus you see that the death of Thomas More is a great signal and you must understand the existence of this signal in order that you can decipher many mysteries of history. These mysteries can only be deciphered when one is able to learn how such super-sensible impulses play into these facts; and you can only learn these things through spiritual science. It is also so in many cases of historical development. Much of that which is called history and is seen from the outside is merely an external fable convenue. You learn the truth of it when you are really able to investigate what actually is occurring in those souls who take part in the particular processes which we are examining. This belongs to the great demands,which the present time places upon us, that we eliminate the thoughtlessness, the lack of thought which occurs in certain connections, because ultimately no one can objectively evaluate the value of the Anglican Church which he does not know that in the soul of this co-called “holy man” who established this Church there was the possibility of executing two wives. When things are placed in the correct light so that we can learn many things of the times in which we live, then one can exercise a true contemplation of such things. Then the soul can be impelled to investigate that which needs more investigation, because these significant facts which can be revealed to us in connection with his whole life and the writing of “Utopia” by Thomas More is something which is intimately connected with historical events.

Now, my dear friends, the Advocate Diabolo might set forth much against Thomas More becoming a saint, but his opponent, the good advocate could also reply: “All occultism is the work of the devil.” And when one is able to prove that Thomas More has fetched his “Utopia” up out of occult foundations, then he becomes all the more holy, because he resists all the devilish things which exist in occultism.

It is necessary in our times which are so filled with destiny, to understand what spiritual facts and conditions play into the external historical events. You have to understand these things because what I am giving you now is the fundamental motifs of all the lectures in order that you can understand the importance of how spiritual acts can throw light upon external historical indications.